The Great TEFL Balancing Act.
There are two major parts of my life that regularly provide me with obstacles to overcome, challenges to face and lessons to learn.One of them is my job as a teacher and teacher trainer. The other is yoga.
Yoga and teaching have a lot in common:
- There is no such thing as a perfect teacher, or a perfect yogi.
- The constant physical and psychological challenges I face on my yoga mat parallel those which face in the classroom.
- There are common misconceptions about the two as well: many people consider yoga to be all meditation and Om-ing; just as many people think TEFL is only for back-packers to make a bit of money on their round-the-world trip.
However, the parallels run deeper than this.
On my yoga mat, I often use blocks to help me, and the teachers are often there to make adjustments in order for me to deepen a pose or gain a better understanding of it. Without these supportive additions to my practice, I would be in danger of hurting myself or giving up because something seems unattainable. However, if I always reached for blocks and the teacher adjusted me in every pose, how would I learn for myself? How would I gain the confidence to push myself that little bit further in order to achieve my full potential in that moment? Basically, I wouldn’t. I would still be struggling to put my hands on the floor with straight legs.
I feel it’s the same with language learners and trainee teachers.
If a classroom is filled with props (in the form of coursebook material etc…), the students and trainees will only be able to reach as far as the material allows. By removing this restriction from the room they are given the space to stretch and push themselves, just as I am on my mat when I do a pose without blocks.
I can see my limitations much better when I practice without the blocks than if I were to rely on them all the time. Similarly, on our Celta course the trainees teach their first lessons without any published material, allowing us to see their strengths and weaknesses much quicker and in much more detail than if they were hiding behind a page from a coursebook. The bare bones nature of this initial teaching practice highlights their beliefs about teaching and learning more than if they were using material created in line with someone else’s beliefs.
But students still need something from their teachers, just as I still need those blocks on my mat. They need our support, our knowledge, our attention in order to achieve their potential. And so, just like when I am trying to support my body weight on my hands in yoga, the delicate balancing act of providing input for my students at the same time as allowing them to have space in which to develop continues.
Do you find parallels between seemingly unrelated areas of your life and teaching? I’d be interested to hear what you’ve spotted!